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74                                     TEEDICT OX INDIA
'This meeting of the citizens of Alivartirungare records its
emphatic protest against the Child Marriage Bill, as it strikes at
ilie very foundations of the Shastraic principles guiding the Hindu
society, and regrets the unwarranted interference of legislatures in
a matter purely affecting the life of the Hindus*
The citizens of Alivartirungare were quite right; the Bill did
strike at the roots of their religion. One would like to ask those
who try to mix Christianity and Hinduism in, a general hotch-
potch of cThe Universal Religion5 what they have to say about
thai. It is as though a nineteenth-century legislator were to
protest against a Bill abolishing witch-burning on the grounds
that this was a custom that had the divine authority of the words
of Christ.
*But all these evil things were a long time ago,' the critic may
answer, 'and anyway, they are now a thing of the past.* The critic
would be utterly wrong. These evil things were not a long time
ago; the Sarda Act was only passed in the last decade. As for
their being a thing of the past, a mass of authorities could be
quoted to show that they are nothing of the sort. Thus, a dis-
tinguished friend of India, Sir Edward Blunt, asserts : 6 Reformers
who have attacked the marriage customs have nearly always
been defeated by the orthodox majority.. .&te Sarda Act has
proved well-nigh ineffective.*1-
I myself have stood in the Monkey Temple at Benares while
streams of little girls, who could not have been more than twelve
years old, were dragged towards the idols to implore the bless-
ings' of fertility. Their faces were stamped with the memory of
terrible things, and their bodies cring3d, as though in shame,
because they had not yet fulfilled the divine duty of maternity. I
have seen those same little girls in the Kali Temple at Calcutta,
cutting off locks of their long black hair and twisting them round
the branches of a sacred cactus, while the Brahmin priest mumbled
a string of prayers to hasten the advent of pregnancy.
A thing of the past ? .
But even if it were a thing of the past in practice, which it is n,ot,
it is very much a thing of the present in theory. The sacred texts,
1 Social Service in India, edited by Sir Edward Blunt (H.M. Stationery Office,